La Palma lava river threatens even more buildings after volcano collapse

Expert says latest flow from volcano less likely to cause damage as it heads to sea

A new river of lava poured out on Saturday from the La Palma volcano, spreading more destruction.

The partial collapse of the volcanic cone overnight gave birth to the lava stream, which started to follow a similar path down the Cumbre Vieja ridge towards the western shore of the island to the ocean.

Vicente Soler, a volcanologist with Spain's National Research Council, said by flowing into the sea the lava was less likely to cause damage than it would on land.

Authorities said the new lava flow is within the area that was hastily evacuated following the September 19 eruption, when 6,000 residents were forced to flee their homes and farms and La Palma airport was temporarily closed for several days due to volcanic ash. The airport has opened again.

The lava flow destroyed more than 800 buildings, as well as banana plantations, roads and other infrastructure.

Emergency official Miguel Angel Morcuende said experts were closely watching the delta of new land being formed off the island's coast since the main lava flow reached the sea last week, after meandering downhill to the coast for nearly 10 days.

He said that parts of it could collapse, causing explosions and large waves, but that would not pose a danger since the immediate area is already evacuated.

On reaching the water, the lava cools rapidly, binding to the cliffside and enlarging the island's territory. Despite fears of toxic gases from the lava reacting with the seawater, authorities said the air inland was fine to breathe.

The island is part of Spain's Canary Islands, an archipelago off north-west Africa that is a popular holiday destination for European tourists.

Updated: October 10th 2021, 7:31 AM
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